Red House by Lawren Harris, 1925 (wikiart.org)
I have underlined the sentence revealing that a question can lead to multiple answers. My name is a problem. I wrote that my mother tongue was French. But how was this interpreted?
Overview as of the 2016 census
- Population: 8,164,361
- Official language: French
- Majority group: Francophone (77.1%)
- Minority groups: Allophone (13.15%), Anglophone (7.45%), Aboriginals (0.6%)
In the field of linguistics, the word allophone means “other sound.” It is used to describe when a phoneme (the smallest unit of sound in speech) sounds slightly different depending on how it is used in a word. In Canada, this idea of “other sound” is applied to the notion of languages other than French or English. (See Allophone, The Canadian Encyclopedia) (See Language Demographics of Quebec, Wikipedia)
Knowledge of Languages
The question on knowledge of languages allows for multiple responses. The following figures are from the 2021 Canadian Census and the 2016 Canadian Census, and lists languages that were selected by at least one per cent of respondents. See Language Demographics of Quebec, Wikipedia)
- 49.99% knew French only
- 44.46% knew English and French
- 4.62% knew English only
(See Language Demographics of Quebec, Wikipedia)
Another set of figures under Knowledge of Languages gives us:
- 93.72% Francophones
- 51.96% Anglophones
(See Language Demographics of Quebec, Wikipedia)
About Language Laws in Quebec
Having provided figures, we are returning to the subject of Language Laws in Québec.
In 1974, five years after Canada passed the Official Languages Act of 1969, the Liberal Government of Quebec, under Robert Bourassa, passed Bill 22. Bill 22 made Quebec a unilingual (French) province in an officially bilingual country. Many Canadians could not believe that Quebec had declared itself unilingual after the “Canada” question had been solved. The Official Languages Act of 1969 had been passed. So, when Bill 22 was passed, there was an exodus of English-speaking Montrealers, the Province of Quebec’s best taxpayers. They moved to Toronto but soon moved to Calgary and Vancouver. These were their favourite destinations. Bill 101 (The Charter of the French Language) was passed in 1977 by René Lévesque‘s Parti Québécois. Bill 96 updates The Charter of the French Language. It was passed in 2021 under François Legault‘s Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government.
The Province of Quebec has bilingual areas. Montreal has an anglophone and allophone population. The Eastern Townships of Lower Canada, future Quebec, were given to United Empire Loyalists shortly before the Constitutional Act of 1791. Quebecers living in small communities in the Eastern Townships receive services in English. Moreover, although Montreal is not a bilingual area of Quebec, many anglophones live in the Greater Montreal Area. The North West Company, a fur trading company, was headquartered in Montreal from 1779 to 1821. Many lived in the Golden Square Mile.
Introduced by Camille Laurin, Bill 101, the Charter of the French Language (1977) made French the official language of the Government and the courts of Quebec. French became the "normal, everyday language of work, instruction, communication, commerce and business."
(See Bill 101, the Canadian Encyclopedia.)
The validity of Bill 22 (1974), passed under the Liberal government of Robert Bourassa, and Bill 101, the Charter of the French Language (1977), passed under René Lévesque‘s Parti Québécois, and Bill 96, a continuation of Bill 101, passed by François Legault‘s Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) has been questioned. It is an assimilative process. Bill 96 is a continuation of Bill 101, the Charter of the French Language. The majority of Quebec’s citizens are francophones, but Quebec has anglophone citizens. As mentioned above, the Eastern Townships of the province of Quebec are a bilingual area, as are other communities. Besides, many anglophones live in the Greater Montreal Area.
Quebec may wish to make French the “normal, everyday language of work, instruction, communication, commerce, and business.” Still, Quebec is not universally unilingual and therefore promotes unilingualism in an officially bilingual country. Moreover, francisation comes at a price. In the workplace, businesses are supervised by the Office québécois de la langue française, which jeopardizes “doing business,” a foolish policy and one that is calculated to drive anglophones away from Quebec. Businesses are not language schools. Language laws also penalize businesses and other groups (numbers matter) that are not contributing substantially to Quebec’s francization. Companies must comply with Quebec’s francization or be punished.
If a business doesn’t follow the francization rules, it might have to pay a fine ranging from $700 to $30,000, or even more. (See Language Laws and Doing Business in Quebec.)
Businesses are supervised by l’Office québécois de la langue française until they receive a Certificate of Francization. However, they must carry on with the good work because, after three years, the business must report to “l’Office québécois de la langue française.” (See Language Laws and Doing Business in Quebec française.)
It must also report to the Office every three years on the use of French in the business.
Languages have terminologies. There are languages within languages. Does l’Office québécois de la langue française have examiners who know all terminologies? But, more importantly, if a bilingual and competent employee can no longer bear the burden of francization, will he or she stay in Quebec. No, he or she will not. Therefore, I genuinely fear losing the experts currently managing my pension fund. They are bilingual, but what I need is their expertise. Competence is my first criterion.
Competence and Francization
On 4 October 2021, I was diagnosed with pericarditis in an emergency ward, but my new doctor told me to buy Voltaren. I still have a large toe. One can develop gout as a result of pericarditis. I had at least five attacks a week for four months of what felt like a heart attack before my doctor prescribed medication. Had it not been for doctors at the Magog hospital emergency room, I would not have been medicated. That happy period lasted two weeks. So, give me a competent doctor. I’ll struggle with the terminology.
Québec remains a bilingual province in a bilingual country, as per the Official Languages Acts. Ironically, this francization occurs because “[a]ll workers in Quebec have the right to work in French.” (See Language Laws and Doing Business in Quebec.) Certain professions demand knowledge of English.
I am told that if a business, or other entity, needs a translator, it must be at the cost of this business. Where will this business find a translator? My father worked as a translator for the Canadian Poultryman, which has a new name. He dutifully learned everything about chicken and eggs in French and English, but he could not retire. His employer could not find a replacement for him. So, the magazine is no longer published in French and English. There are steps. First, one learns the language. The article will not otherwise make any sense.
Moreover, businesses must have enough employees to manage the francization task. (See Language Laws and Doing Business in Quebec.)
Language Laws and Doing Business in Quebec lead to other areas, such as education. You may explore.
Small localities in the Eastern Townships may have services in English, but if the population drops below the “acceptable” number, they will lose these benefits. If Bill 101/96 is respected, the anglophone population will fall below the good number. Moreover, people are receiving government documents in French only. These used to be issued in French and English. Canada remains an officially bilingual country.
It is a Sword of Damocles scenario.
As you know, I oppose language laws. Languages are learned at home and in schools. French-speaking Quebecers, Québécois have been enrolling in English-language cégeps (Collège d’enseignement général et professionnel). Cégeps are a two-year pre-university programme, and they are public schools. Students are protesting Bill 96 because they know English is the current lingua franca and wish to learn it. It turns out that Champlain College-Lennoxville, in Sherbrooke, offers an Advantage programme. Students who require special assistance may avail themselves of the “Advantage” and “Advantage +” services. I do not know whether French-language cégeps welcome English-speaking students who wish to learn French. My work is not over.
Le parcours Avantage s’adresse aux nouveaux étudiants qui auraient besoin de temps et de soutien à la réussite pour faciliter leur transition aux études collégiales. Dans ce cheminement, les étudiants suivent plusieurs cours conçus à la fois pour améliorer leurs méthodes de travail et de recherche et pour mieux comprendre leur rôle en tant qu’apprenants. Bien qu’un tel parcours soit d’abord fait pour les étudiants qui ont besoin d’un soutien scolaire additionnel pour réussir au collégial, le cheminement pourrait aussi profiter grandement à ceux qui ont toujours étudié en français en leur permettant d’améliorer leurs compétences en anglais parlé et écrit ainsi qu’en lecture par des cours spécifiquement conçus à cet effet.
This approach could also benefit those who have always studied in French by allowing them to improve their knowledge of spoken and written English and reading skills in English by taking courses designed for this purpose.
John A. Macdonald created “uniform” schools where the language of instruction was English. I have not invented the term “uniform” schools. I have seen it somewhere. As immigrants settled in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, or elsewhere in Canada, they had to attend English-language schools. Quebec was the only province where children could be educated in French. It created an imbalance, and French Canadians viewed Quebec as their home. This drama unfolded in the “schools” question. In Manitoba, Catholicism clouded the issue. Did Manitobans want French schools or French and Catholic schools? But the Ontario “schools” was unambiguous.
The Ontario schools question was the first major schools issue to focus on language rather than religion. In Ontario, French or French-language education remained a contentious issue for nearly a century, from 1890 to 1980, with English-speaking Catholics and Protestants aligned against French-speaking Catholics. (See Ontario Schools Question, The Canadian Encyclopedia)
The “Quebec” and “Canada” questions are rooted in the “schools” question. John A. Macdonald lived when the British Empire was at its apex, and he adopted Macaulayism. Thomas Babington Macauley believed that the British had an empire because they spoke English. In Residential Schools, indigenous children were punished if they spoke a native language. French-speaking children were spared that ignominy, but John A. Macdonald’s programme of anglicisation led to the growth of a primarily English-language country and Québécois were minoritized and could not leave Quebec.
Therefore, the French language must be promoted, but this sort of process usually occurs at home and in schools. I wonder if French-language cégeps would welcome English-speaking students. Cégeps are public schools. One does not pay a fee. The process could encourage French-speaking students to polish their French. Terminologies are learned after one has acquired some fluency in a second language, and terminologies are not always extremely complex. If our businessman or woman has been thoroughly frenchified, he or she will not be able to work outside Quebec or French-language countries. What will Quebec have gained?
The age of imperialism and colonialism is over. The French and English nations are Canada’s founding nations. Nations are not easily quantifiable. We, therefore, provide citizens with bilingual documents. L’École acadienne de Pomquet is a model. Pomquet is “home” to 900 inhabitants. But it is very near Antigonish and may attract anglophone students.
I am so sorry I left Antigonish. It was home, and it will always be.
I was tired the day I published this post. I had to rewrite it. I also discovered that it is not possible to tell the exact population of Quebec. I am still a little confused, but the relevant information is available
- A Unilingual Province in a Bilingual Country (29 October 2022)
- Language Laws in Quebec: la Patrie littéraire, the Literary Homeland (2 Octobre 2022)
- Language Laws in Quebec, a Preface (29 September 2022)
- Le Patriote (16 August 2022)
- From Cats to l’École acadienne de Pomquet (25 July 2022)
- On Quebec’s Language Laws: Bill 96 (21 June 2022)
- On Quebec’s Language Laws (18 November 2021)
Sources and Ressources
l’Office québécois de la langue française
Language Demographics of Quebec Wikipedia
Language Laws and Doing Business in Quebec
The Charter in the Classroom (Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms)
Micheline Bourbeau-Walker, Le Poids de l’histoire : à la recherche d’une pédagogie, Canadian Modern Language Review (Vol. 40, No 2, 1984) pp. 218-227.
Micheline Bourbeau-Walker, ed. Tendances et pratiques actuelles en didactique du français langue seconde. Mosaïque, Apfucc, 1988. (Apfucc : Association des professeurs de français des universités et collèges canadiens)
© Micheline Walker
29 October – 1st November 2022
Winter Landscape with Pink House by Lawren Harris, 1918